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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes
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At the entrance of the Fourth Circle, Virgil and Dante are
threatened by Pluto, mythological god of the underworld.
Much as he did with Minos and the other figures who
challenge their passage, Virgil quickly shuts up the beast with
a word about the nature of their quest. In this circle, Dante
sees two groups of sinners rolling huge rocks against each
other, turning and wheeling back again. These opposing
groups are the Hoarders and the Spendthrifts, who are by
definition incompatible with each other and full of mutual
antagonism. The sight prompts Dante to ask Virgil about
Luck, and Virgil takes the time to explain some aspects of
divine providence to Dante.

The poets come upon the second of the rivers in Hell, the river
Styx. Dante sees mud-stained and discontented shades in the
river. They are beating and tearing at each other with fists,
heads, bodies, and all. Virgil explains that these are the souls
of the Wrathful, those who could not control their anger.
Under the surface of the river lie the Sullen; their sulky
murmurs of anger bubble to the top.

This Fourth Circle contains the last of the sins of
Incontinence. The image of the Hoarders and Spendthrifts
demonstrates how futile such irrational appetites are. In the
group of the Wrathful, we can see how the sins of
incontinence have defiled the soul. When we move from a
vision of Paolo and Francesca, mutually sharing their sin and
fate, to the Wrathful who furiously lust to inflict pain on each
other, we see the instability and the repulsiveness of the
decline into sin.

It is from this literal and allegorical point of view that Dante
and Virgil see the walls that surround the Nether Hell, the city
of Dis.

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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes

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